Wednesday 4 February 2015

Adventurous Journey to Rishikesh

Parth Athley, Bronze level participant from Billabong High International School, Bhopal, shares his experience of his Adventurous Journey which was organised from 10th - 15th January 2015.

I stumbled in the dark, my feet sliding on gravel, my hand trying to grab anything at my side, but finding only fragile grass. My back was killing me. Having overestimated the number of jackets I would need to fend off the cold, I had over-packed, and I was now paying the price as my rucksack dug into my shoulders and strained my back muscles. I peered ahead, aided by the dim light of the torches of my group mates, and took another step.

It was an hour past midnight. My group of 28 fellow students and 4 adults (read assessors) were walking down a rough path, cut into the mountain and barely wide enough for two men abreast, carrying our packs on our shoulders. To my one side were jagged rocks and grass growing between them; to my other side was pitch black darkness. In the distance, I could hear the rumbling of the mighty river Ganges, infinite gallons of water rushing past.

We were near Rishikesh, headed to camp at the banks of the Ganges. We had intended to arrive by late evening, but first our train from Bhopal had been delayed by a few hours, and then the bus ride from Delhi had taken almost 11 hours. Although it was late, most of us were well-rested, having spent part of the bus ride in deep slumber. We had had a lot of fun, singing songs and playing dumb charades and other games all night in the train, and all day in the bus.

After what felt like a long trek downhill, racing against time, we reached the bottom, miraculously without any casualties. After depositing our bags near the row of tents, we were shown around the camp. It was amazing. A covered dining area-cum-meeting hall was situated closest to the river, and apart from the camp, near the row of functional toilets, was a volleyball net. We promptly gathered for a delicious meal of paneer and egg curry. After satiating our hunger, we divided ourselves into groups and headed to our respective tents for a good night's sleep.

The next day, there was a palpable feeling of excitement rippling in the air. We were going river rafting.  Many of us were amateurs at it, while others, including me, had prior experience. There were four rafts to hold us, and we formed groups of eight. One raft contained all boys, while other groups were mixed: seven students and one teacher escort.

The rafting was physically taxing, but nonetheless incredibly fun. First, each group spent nearly an hour in relatively calm water learning the ropes: how to hold the paddle, proper sitting posture, basic paddling skills, etc. Then began the real adventure. We rafted through six rapids, the first of which was Good Morning, while others were called Crossfire, Black Money, Three Blind Mice etc. Some were Grade III rapids, meaning we encountered huge waves and a few rocks we had to navigate through. Thankfully, none of us slipped off the boat. However, we did seize the opportunity to jump into the river whenever we reached calm waters between the rapids.

In the evening, when we returned to camp, we had several games of volleyball, fully utilizing the last vestiges of light until the stars became visible. The night sky was absolutely brilliant. I could actually see the band of stars we call the 'Milky Way', and the stars were almost ten times as numerous as would be visible in the city. A bonfire was set up, and our entire group gathered around to warm ourselves. After another delicious dinner of paneer and chicken, we retired to bed.

On the last day of our stay, we travelled to the picturesque town of Rishikesh. Although much of our time was spent trying to avoid the monkeys, our group traversed the Lakshman Jhula. We then visited historic temples dedicated to Lord Lakshman and the Goddess Ganga. An excellent meal at the famous Chotiwala restaurant quieted our growling stomachs. On reaching the Ram Jhula, we opted instead to take a boat ride across the river. Then, we departed back for camp.

We had to get up early the next day to reach Delhi in time to catch our train; instead many decided to stay awake through the night. Lounging by the bonfire, we played more games. Highlights were Ghost (each player utters a letter until a word is formed) and 12 questions (one player decides on a well-known person and others have to guess by asking questions). A couple of girls demonstrated a telepathic magic game, and the rest of us tried to crack their trick (we never did).

As I journeyed back home, my body sore and aching (in a good way) I thought how the trip had been unique and rewarding. I visited a new place, experienced a different way of life, did things I hadn't done before, grew closer to my schoolmates, and enjoyed amazing food. It was definitely a memory to last me a lifetime! 

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